| Daniel & Theresa DeMatteo, Class of 1999
After graduating from East Rockaway High School, Daniel began working in New York City. He regularly walked by the Fashion Institute of Technology and was compelled to check it out. His passion for art was clear as an East Rockaway student. He recalls spending a lot of time with Mr. Bishop who was instrumental in encouraging Daniel to pursue a career in the arts. Although it never dawned on Daniel to pursue fashion, his artistic abilities and enrollment in FIT began it organically.
After graduating at the top of his class at FIT, which brought him to France, Italy, and all over the world to study menswear design, he landed his first fashion job at Nicole Miller.
In 2005, Daniel started his own business. It was an uphill battle the entire way, but he wouldn't change it for anything. While Daniel is a menswear designer by trade, he is also an entrepreneur and a consultant, as well. He worked with every major brand in the garment district; Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, and more. His business in design and consulting catapulted his career in fashion. In 2012, he launched his own fashion brand. He is grateful for his career which has taken him all over the world; China, India, Japan, and many others.
As an East Rockaway High School athlete, Daniel played football, basketball, and volleyball. As an elected East Rockaway School District BOE member, he is eager for the field to be rebuilt and takes great pride in the opportunity to give back to the community by having played an integral part in its development. Daniel believes his connections from East Rockaway were instrumental in shaping his future. The most important connection is meeting his wife, Theresa DeMatteo, his ERHS sweetheart. While he thought Theresa was cute and loved her little braces, she was not always the nicest to him, she was a spicy Italian. Daniel shared that he fell in love immediately while courting her and knew they would get married. He believes that when you find something good you do not let it go. He describes Theresa as everything beautiful and pure. She is a great mother, wife, and partner in life. Daniel feels that Hurricane Sandy is one of the most incredible things that he has ever experienced. He is so proud of the town for showing how something so horrible can become something so beautiful by the way the community came together.
While Theresa began elementary school at East Rockaway, she briefly moved to Oceanside. She spent only a year or two at Rhame Avenue and returned to East Rockaway in 7th grade for the rest of her Junior High School and High School years. Theresa believes she would be remembered as quiet and studious. She valued academics while in school and played an instrumental role in Rock Rivalry performances, her class still holds the record for winning three years in a row, these experiences crafted some of her fondest memories at ERHS. Athletically, Theresa tried out for volleyball and cheered for a bit as well. She recalls only wanting to cheer so she could wear Daniel's football jersey around the school. Theresa has memorable experiences with many teachers at East Rockaway HS, for starters, Mr. Gerken, who was always motivating and supportive. He left a lasting impression on both Theresa and Daniel. Theresa also recalls fond memories of Mr. Cuttita, Mrs. Leary, and Mr. Pajer, however, it was Ms. Orzano that motivated Theresa to become a teacher, herself. She will forever be grateful for East Rockaway because it brought Daniel into her life, who she describes as a dedicated, hard-working, and loving husband and father.
After graduating from East Rockaway HS, Theresa studied education at Adelphi University. She graduated with a BA and MA in 2004 and has been an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn since then. Theresa is continuing her education with The College of St. Rose's CITE program, where she will graduate in 2021 and receive her school administrative license.
Theresa and Daniel were married on July 15, 2006. Although they lived in other towns and even had plans to move out of the country, they are so happy that East Rockaway has remained their home. They have always wanted to be close to family, and while visiting Daniel's parents in 2006, they saw a house for sale. Daniel suggested that they just take a look. They loved the block, fell in love with the house, and purchased that home in 2007, right before their daughter was born. Theresa and Daniel currently have a daughter in eighth grade at ERHS and a fourth-grader at Rhame Avenue. Daniel and Theresa love that their children are going through the ER Schools.
All the things that are so beautiful about East Rockaway's, "small, home-town feel," are why the DeMatteos are glad they stayed and are raising their children here. What East Rockaway lacks in numbers it makes up for in heart, tradition, and pride.
Kevin Shiel is a graduating member of East Rockaway High School Class of 2014. After spending his first few years of high school participating in clubs and sports, Kevin decided to get a job that would help provide him vocational training. Kevin also started enrolling in Technology and Business classes while attending our high school, which he said helped him think outside of the box, learn how to work with his hands, and learn about the business of owning your own company. Additionally, Kevin was accepted to an Electrical Technology program at GC Tech, a vocational school in Levittown, New York. As part of this program, Kevin spent half of his school day at East Rockaway and half of his day at GC Tech.
After graduating, Kevin spent a semester in college before ultimately recognizing that he was meant for a different path, and left to pursue his passion of running the family business, Shiel Enterprise Inc. Kevin’s advice to students is to “Make sure you consider all of your options. If you have a passion or a craft that you are interested in, pursue it. Make sure you do things to continue working towards your end goal even though it may not be the traditional path taken, or what everyone else wants you to do. There are many paths that can be taken, and it is important to have all of your information to make an informed decision.”
After graduating from ERHS in 2000, Alan Owens went on to attend SUNY Delhi and SUNY New Paltz. He graduated from New Paltz with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration and Finance. Alan currently lives in Rockville Centre, New York with his wife and their six children. Alan is currently working in the family business in Lynbrook, New York where he owns and operates a trucking company along with a Logistics company.
East Rockaway High School has helped Alan in so many ways. East Rockaway allowed Alan to be himself and form lasting relationships with his teachers and classmates. His classes helped him prepare for college and learn the value of hard work and time management. Alan also participated in many extracurricular activities, but most important to him were his involvement in Rock Rivalry and being a part of the basketball team. These are memories that he takes with him to this day. Alan looks back at his time in East Rockaway fondly and knows that his time spent here played a large role in making him who he is today. Alan’s advice is to not be afraid to take risks and participate in things that you are passionate about. East Rockaway has also helped Alan keep the memory of his brothers, Patrick and Kevin Owens, alive. The faculty has helped out with many charity events and fundraisers over the past few years, and this is something that Alan will never forget. The support he has received from East Rockaway is more than he could’ve imagined.
After graduating ERHS in 1997, Brian Dessart attended Nassau Community College, where he received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, and went on to receive a B.A. in Business Management from Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Following college, Brian had stints as the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Richner Communications, currently located in Garden City, and as an analyst for Mizuho Corporate Bank in Manhattan. At the same time, he felt as if a career in journalism would be his best path, as it was a field that he was very passionate about since a young age. But he was also encouraged to take all of the police and fire civil service exams, as a way to fulfill an excellent, exciting and solid career.
In Jan. 2018, Brian was hired as a firefighter with the FDNY, and he currently works at Ladder 121 in Far Rockaway. He states “It’s a life decision and career path that I will never regret — definitely one of the best choices of my life. The job is completely awesome, self-fulfilling and the people I work with are some of the best individuals I’ve ever had the opportunity to come into contact with. It’s great to have a team of colleagues — family — who always watch each other’s back”.
After being hired by the FDNY, and working to perfect his craft as a journalist, Brian was contracted by Sports Illustrated to start covering performance, fitness and action sports in 2014 — a position that allowed him to write stories from places such as Beijing, Moscow and Port-au-Prince. And since 2014, he has been grateful to receive the assignment to cover the Ironman World Championship from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For many sports journalists, being able to write for and have a byline with SI is a dream that very few actually get a crack at. He was very lucky and beyond humbled. Then, in 2016, he became involved with SI’s NHL department and began hosting a weekly digital video series, titled the #NHLNugget, where we would give viewers a quick "60 seconds or less" historic fact about the National Hockey League, its teams and players.
Brian’s advice to the students of ERHS: “There’s no shame in being a bit jumbled and not having your life figured out when you graduate. I was literally all over the place, mentally — I couldn’t find my niche. But give it time, don’t force things upon yourself and end up being miserable. Carefully think out your career objectives, take chances and move forward. Don’t be afraid of rejection — it builds character. Be afraid of not trying in the first place. When someone tells you “no,” make every attempt to show them why they should say “yes.” Be persistent. Have passion. And everything will eventually fall into place”.
Ben Giliberti is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2013. Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from East Stroudsburg University in 2017. During his time at East Stroudsburg, Ben completed clinical rotations at 1 middle school, 3 high schools and a division 2 college, combining over 1,000 hours over his 4 years. He was also a member of the men’s rugby team for 4 years.
He currently is in his second year as a Certified Athletic Trainer at Valley Stream North HS, employed by Peak Performance Physical Therapy. Athletic Trainers work in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Athletic Trainers are healthcare practitioners trained in injury evaluation and diagnosis, emergency medicine, first aid, gen. med conditions and therapeutic exercise and modalities. Ben shared, “the best part of the job is watching my athletes work hard and overcome adversity while competing at their highest level. Sports at ERHS was a major part of my life; athletic training was a way to stay involved and give back to high school student athletes by keeping them safe and provide a positive impact to a special group.”
Ben’s advice to ERHS students is to, “do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.”
ERHS would like to welcome back from the class of 2013, Vincent Arena. Vincent graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Design Innovation and Society in 2017.
Currently, Vincent is an Entrepreneur, building sustainable businesses focused on solving problems facing society and the environment. He has spent the last 12 months working on personal ventures and products, the main one being building a new coffee franchise starting in Long Island. One coffee shop is located in Island Park (Tazzetto Coffee) and another one is opening soon in RVC focused on innovation, sustainability, and authentic Italian food, coffee, and culture. Vincent is also involved in public speaking, and he hopes to make this more of a larger part of his career moving forward. Recently, he gave a talk at Stanford University in front of 300 college students when he was a mentor for the University Innovation Fellows program.
His advice to fellow ERHS students is to “find a MISSION, not a major. Think about what impact you want to have on the world, then figure out how to get there - it may be a path that you never thought was possible.
Carry around a journal, reflect on every day and think about what you are grateful for, and what you will do differently tomorrow. Learning is a lifelong journey and shouldn't just happen in school.
Critical thinking and creativity are the most important skills for a successful career, so question everything - if you are doing something a certain way just because that's how it's always been done, most likely it could be done differently, or better! If you focus your career on helping others, the money will come. If you are interested in starting your own business one day, being innovative is a mindset. Instead of looking for the next best ideas, look for problems. Once you find a problem worth solving, pursue it with all you got.”
Carly Howard, East Rockaway Class of 2014, just graduated from Molloy College, where she majored in Nursing and is currently a Labor and Delivery Nurse. While attending Molloy College, Carly was a part of the Molloy Nursing Student Association, where she later became the secretary, then eventually the President of the association. Being a part of the club taught Carly to network, learn more about nursing, and explore the different opportunities available with nursing. Carly also got to represent Molloy College and the New York State Nursing Student Association at the annual convention two years in a row, 2017 in Dallas, TX, and 2018 in Nashville, TN. Besides being a part of the nursing association, outside of school, Carly worked at South Nassau Communities Hospital as a Nurse’s Aide where she got to build up on her nursing skills and get more experience with patient centered care.
When Carly was at East Rockaway High School, she learned to juggle school, sports, and clubs. Being able to be involved in so much at school helped Carly prepare for college. Classes, clinical, running for Molloy’s cross country and track team for a while, and being actively involved with the nursing student association was a lot, but it helped mold her into the individual she is today. Her advice for future Nursing majors is to get involved with your college’s nursing club, get as much as experience as you can. For the rest of East Rockaway’s graduating class, get involved now, balance out school and clubs, it helps you stay organized, be involved, make friends, network, and most importantly, finding yourself.
John J. Budion
After graduating from East Rockaway, I went on to attend New York University where I studied Visual and Special effects for Film and TV. Concurrently, I was interning at several prestigious Post Production companies to put into practice, the theory I was learning in the classroom.
I graduated NYU in 2003 with my Bachelor's degree, and I currently live and work in New York City. My occupation is completely influenced by my experience participating in the tradition of "Rock Rivalry," something unique and special to East Rockaway High School. Being a part of RR opened my eyes to the many aspects of entertainment, creation of content, and the importance of working as a team.
In NYC, I am self employed as a Writer and Film Director, while also running a Visual Effects Company. I have a feature film titled "ROCKAWAY" that I filmed in my hometown of East Rockaway, releasing in early 2019. The film reflects my love for basketball, which I played for 4 years under Coach Joe Lores, and the bonds of friendships that I formed in the village of East Rockaway.
I am currently attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a fifth year to obtain my M.S. in Chemistry. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute I participate in Rensselaer Chemistry Society, Sigma Chi fraternity and work as an independent researcher to write my thesis, Calcium Phosphate Synthesis using a Montmorillonite Template. I also participated in Relay for Life, Club baseball and J.V. baseball for the school team. I have also been a part of many community service events while attending RPI. A major notable one is Derby Days, a large event put together by my fraternity that donates the money obtained to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. After I receive my Masters Degree in May, I am hoping to obtain a job working in a laboratory setting. I greatly enjoy being hands on with the chemicals and my goal is to either work in a Research/Development or Quality control department in the government sector. My advice is to work hard and not try to coast by when attending higher level education. For me, there was a huge difference between high school and college. It was a huge awakening after receiving my first grade back that I needed to work harder and put more effort in to my work.
Katherine Devlin is an ERHS graduate from the Class of 2015. Recently she graduated from Nassau Community College and transferred to Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry where she is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work. While in school, Katherine is a Community Habitat Worker for adults with disabilities. It is her goal after graduation to pursue her studies at the graduate level and receive her Master’s in Social Work. Katherine plans to continue her work with adults who are disabled in a Residential Facility. Her advice for our ERHS students is to, “push yourself outside your comfort zone, don’t compare yourself to others, work hard but enjoy yourself and most important, trust your instinct.”